Rights Act decision and Trayvon Martin case have galvanized many
By Elizabeth Flock
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gestures during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Some at the National Urban League conference have called for another such march in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict and the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act.
PHILADELPHIA – The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was intended to be a look back on the historic march of 1963 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the height of the civil rights movement.
But the recent Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act coupled with the “not guilty” verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin has lent new urgency and more participants to the anniversary event, according to groups involved.
In Philadelphia, where the National Urban League is holding its annual conference on Thursday and Friday, president Marc Morial says that both the conference and march have changed in focus and in tenor because of “what’s happened in the last 30 days.”
“The Voting Rights Act decision [and] the Trayvon Martin tragedy [have] created a different mood among the people who are here. It’s a different kind of focus in their hearts and minds,” he says. “It’s a different enthusiasm.”
Some of that emotion, he says, has shown itself in the form of renewed distrust in the criminal justice system. Several panels at the conference also expressed frustration with the Supreme Court. And in a speech at the conference Thursday morning, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was greeted by frustrated cheers when she told the crowd she’d better see them at the 50th anniversary march next month.
But Morial hopes those frustrations can be channeled into calls for action at the march: for a congressional fix to the Voting Rights Act, a hard look at the criminal justice system after the Trayvon Martin case and a plan for dealing with the lack of employment in minority communities.
The National Urban League is just one of some two dozen civil and human rights groups involved in the event. Five participating groups took part in the original 1963 march, but many more are new, including Rev. Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network, which has 40 chapters across the country, the National Council of Churches, which includes 100,000 local congregations, and the National Park Service.
“There were 250,000 people in 1963,” says Morial. “It remains to be seen this time… [But] these recent events have been encouragement for more people to attend.”
Wednesday’s tragic murder of nine black parishioners in Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a 21-year-old white man wanting “to start a civil war” is weighing heavily on the hearts of all of us. We cannot begin to understand the grief felt by the families of those lost or the Charleston community. But we can speak about what we do know. This was a racist committing a racially motivated murder. This was another tragic example of how guns too easily fall into the hands of dangerous people. This was a terrorist act.
Here is a round-up of the columns and news that we are reading and talking about. We hope they foster and inform your conversations, reflections, and actions too:
1. Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker: Murders in Charleston. “We have, quite likely, found at 110 Calhoun Street, in Charleston, South Carolina, the place where Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown cross with Baltimore, Ferguson, and Sanford.”
2. Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic: Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now. “Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice. Take down the flag. Take it down now.”
3. Jeff Duo in the Washington Post: The legal loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to get a gun. “Dylann Roof, the man accused of a shooting spree that left nine people dead at a historic black church in Charleston on Wednesday night, should not have been able to get a gun.”
4. Jamelle Bouie in Slate: The Black American Holiday Everyone Should Celebrate but Doesn’t. “Juneteenth isn’t just a celebration of emancipation, it’s a celebration of our commitment to make it real.”
5. Jennifer Mascia in The Trace: Charleston Area Faced Gun Violence Spike Before Church Shooting. “Nearly eight out of every 10 killings in the area last year involved a firearm.”
6. Dan Wasserman’s editorial cartoon in The Boston Globe:
CREDIT: Dan Wasserman
And be sure to check out the latest news and opinions from our partners at ThinkProgress:
1. Judd Legum: NRA Board Member Blames Charleston Victim For His Own Death. Seriously.
2. Ian Millhiser: When John Roberts Said There Isn’t Enough Racism In America To Justify The Voting Rights Act. It’s a sordid business, this divvying up the amount of racism in the United States to decide whether Congress is allowed to enact laws intended to fix it.
3. Jack Jenkins: How The Charleston Shooting Is Linked To The Confederate Flag, According To A South Carolinian. While the Confederate flag is certainly about heritage, it is and always has been about hate.
4. Kiley Kroh: Charleston Victim’s Son Addresses Media On The Baseball Field. “Love is always stronger than hate. So if we just love the way my mom would, then the hate won’t be anywhere close to where the love is.”
Wishing you a safe and peaceful weekend.